It’s anticipated that climate change may lead to more violence related to food scarcity, but the government has a vital role to play in preventing such uprisings, said a political science associate professor who co-authored the first ever study on these combined risk factors from weather changes.
“A capable government is even more important to keeping the peace than good weather,” professor Bear Braumoeller of The Ohio State University said in a statement. “We’ve already started to see climate change as an issue that won’t just put the coasts under water, but as something that could cause food riots in some parts of the world.”
Extreme weather conditions, such as flood and drought, could negatively impact agricultural production in some countries, resulting in violence by people desperate for food.
“Climate-induced food scarcity is going to become an increasingly big issue and we wanted to understand which countries are most threatened by it,” Braumoeller said.
In estimating consequences of food insecurity and vulnerability of state in violent uprisings from 1991 to 2011 in Africa, the researchers utilized a range of measurements.
For causes of food shocks that are climate-related, they examined rainfall temperature and notably the international food prices, including sudden price increases.
“We recognized that countries that imported food could be impacted by climate shocks in other parts of the world that suddenly increased prices, even if they weren’t experiencing any significant weather impacts themselves,” said Braumoeller.
As for vulnerabilities of states, they studied a host of factors, which include the dependence of a country on agricultural production, strength of political institutions, and its wealth and imports.
Braumoeller said “that the most vulnerable countries are those that have weak political institutions, are relatively poor and rely more on agriculture,” while the “less vulnerable countries can better handle the problems that droughts or food price fluctuations create.”
Their findings recommend ways on how the global community can counter such challenges.
Responding to the vulnerabilities of states, according to Braumoeller, is “crucial to breaking the link between food insecurity and violence,” meaning doing more than providing food assistance to counterbalance short-term shortages.
He added that there’s also a need to strengthen government institutions in vulnerable nations and assist them to invest in “green growth” policies, which could boost economic growth while promoting resilience to climate-related shocks.
“Development aid is important now and it is likely to be even more important in the future as we look for ways to increase climate resilience,” he said.
The results of the study appeared in the Journal of Peace Research. Co-authors are Benjamin Jones from University of Mississippi and Eleonora Mattiacci from Amherst College.